“Second Inaugural Address,” spoken by George W. Bush, 2005 Presidential Inauguration, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,144976,00.html, 20 January 2005.
Once more, greetings. This is the last exegesis on the President’s Second Inaugural address. While this last section of his speech does have international repurcussions, its much more domestic oriented than previous sections.
Bush begins by clearly comparing his education, tax, and social security reforms to the domestic programs of other Presidents. All the ones listened are remembered as being empowering, which is what Bush wants to achieve by building an ownership society.
In America’s ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights. And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. To give every American a stake in the promise and future of our country, we will bring the highest standards to our schools, and build an ownership society. We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings and health insurance – preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear, and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.
President Bush believes in a liberal society, but not a licentious one. He wants a strong civil society that does not need a strong government. In his speech he is ambiguous about how to get there. And here may be our greatest place of disagreement.
I am worried that President Bush believes he can use the government to create virtue. He tolerance of the drug war makes me fear this is true. But everywhere morality is legislated it falls apart. Franco’s Catholic Spain is now disturbingly secularist, and the Ayatollah’s Islamic Iran is amazingly nonreligious.
By being a social system that assuages problems, government replaces civil society. I hope I am not reading him optomistically, but his speech implies Bush realizes this. In his first line he says that the “ideal of freedom … depends… on the rule of conscience in our own lives.” Next he talks about governing the self, and recognizes the role that communities and families play in this.
I hope so much he means this. He will destroy virtue if he tries to impose it. With his power he can structurally change America to be less government-intensive, and more virtuous. But only if he’s smart about it.
On a Jesuitical note, I’m pleased that he sees that all faiths give a common tao — a similar way or sharia. Faith is an important tool in creating a civil society.
In America’s ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character – on integrity, and tolerance toward others, and the rule of conscience in our own lives. Self-government relies, in the end, on the governing of the self. That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran, and the varied faiths of our people. Americans move forward in every generation by reaffirming all that is good and true that came before – ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Civil society is built on social bonds. Arbitrary hatred, and isolation, weakens these. A “soft” moment in the speech, but not bad sentiments.
In America’s ideal of freedom, the exercise of rights is ennobled by service, and mercy, and a heart for the weak. Liberty for all does not mean independence from one another. Our nation relies on men and women who look after a neighbor and surround the lost with love. Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another, and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth. And our country must abandon all the habits of racism, because we cannot carry the message of freedom and the baggage of bigotry at the same time.
Repition that this is a long struggle, similar to the Cold War. Except again the Cold War was anti-communism, while we are pro-freedom. Our effort is even greater than the Cold War.
From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?
America is unique in that you can become American like one can never become Japanese, or German, or Brazilian. This is the source of our strength, both in workers and how it prepares us for an increasingly global future.
When we united with Mexico, it will be helpful for some of us to speak Spanish.
These questions that judge us also unite us, because Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes – and I will strive in good faith to heal them. Yet those divisions do not define America. We felt the unity and fellowship of our nation when freedom came under attack, and our response came like a single hand over a single heart. And we can feel that same unity and pride whenever America acts for good, and the victims of disaster are given hope, and the unjust encounter justice, and the captives are set free.
Soaring rhetoric. Associationg with higher powers and great men of the past. Literally Machiavellian. Good show.
We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner “Freedom Now” – they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.
And it ends with optimism and a blessing.
When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, “It rang as if it meant something.” In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength – tested, but not weary – we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.
May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America
This morning, I did not expect to hear a speech so great and grand. We have a great President. Hurrah!